NEB National Team Falls Short Of Repeating in PG MLK Tournament
The North East Baseball National Team consistently brings quality teams to Perfect Game tournaments. This year the squad was hoping to repeat its 2019 Upperclass championship of the annual Perfect Game MLK Upperclass Tournament held at the White Sox and Dodgers training facilities in Phoenix. With a roster full of Division-I commitments, the NEB National squad was bolstered this year by the recent addition of a couple of fleet-footed outfielders in Elijah Nunez (2020 class from Arlington, Texas) and Q Phillips (2021 class from Elm Grove, Wis.), adding extra spark to an already strong lineup.
Nunez, 18, is no stranger to the national showcase circuit, having drawn rave reviews at last summer’s Area Code Games as well as playing in the WWBA Championship in Jupiter, Fla. in October. A plus runner, Nunez knows how to play to his strengths.
“I feel I’m well-rounded in all parts of my game, but my speed really carries me through everything," Nunez said.
He’s a smart hitter who controls the strike zone, driving balls to the gaps with quick, strong hands and very good hand-eye coordination.
Nunez acknowledges that his biggest area for improvement is developing more power. While just 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Nunez sports a solid, compact body, and adding muscle will only help in his development.
“That (power) comes with age and strength,” Nunez said. “I have a personal trainer back home in Texas … He trains me (to be) real explosive in short bursts …. It just gets me strong and explosive.”
Nunez is committed to Texas Christian University, appreciating that the school has a strong baseball tradition as well as one aligning with his faith. But professional baseball is also an option after he completes his high school career this spring. The fact that he was able to come up with the date of the MLB draft without hesitation shows that he’s also got his eye on a pro career.
Nunez says he’s content to “wait and see” as to whether he winds up on campus in nearby Fort Worth or starts his minor league career this summer, adding that either way, “It’s a win-win.”
Phillips, 17, may be facing the same decision as Nunez a little more than a year from now, although passing on his University of Michigan commitment may be harder considering that his father graduated from the school.
“I’ve literally been a (Michigan) fan since I was two weeks old,” Phillips said, “so it’s been my dream school my entire life.”
Like Nunez, Phillips is a natural center fielder with quick-twitch athleticism and plus speed. An instinctive fielder, he covers a lot of ground in the outfield but knows that he needs to add more strength to his throws. Phillips is hoping to get even faster, with his current strength-training regimen focusing more on speed training. At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, there’s room on his frame to add strength without affecting his speed.
“I want to get that 60 (yard dash) down to a 6.3 (seconds),” Phillips said.
A switch-hitter, Phillips shows good bat speed from both sides of the plate and acknowledges that he needs to get more reps from the right side to better handle left-handers.
Phillips took advantage of his first time with the North East Baseball team to learn as much as he could from his older teammates.
“It means a lot to play with this group of guys,” Phillips said. “A really good group of guys… and really good baseball players, too. They know the game well, and Coach Sully (Jeff Sullivan) really knows how to coach.”